There has been much controversy surrounding Cathal McCarron's promotion of his new autobiography, Out of Control: How My Addiction Almost Killed Me And My Road To Redemption. A planned appearance on last Friday's Late Late Show was cancelled following an appeal by the father of a 15-year-old girl whom McCarron had met on the dating app Tinder.
McCarron gives his side of the story in the book. Living in Kildare at the time, McCarron met the girl online in October of last year, believing her to be nineteen years of age. He writes in the book of the encounter, that he gave into the "temptation" and "curiosity" of the app. McCarron claims that, having struck up conversation, the girl sent him a picture of what she claimed was her car - a red Jaguar - and that she talked of how she was in college, doing a business course. McCarron writes that "when we met, she looked nineteen or twenty", and that the incident was the "most innocent misjudgment I ever made".
The girl's father sees it differently.
He lodged a complaint, and McCarron was interviewed by the Gardaí on the night of the All-Stars convention last year. A file was sent to the DPP. In July of this year, the DPP decided not to prosecute McCarron. Writing to the girl's family, the DPP said that they accepted the defence of "honest mistake". As Tinder requires a legal age of 18, the girl's Facebook profile showed her to have a registered birth date which showed her to be nineteen.
Speaking to the Irish Independent, the father of the girl in question told of how she suffered a breakdown after meeting McCarron, and that, after counseling, she spent time in the psychiatric unit in Tallaght hospital. The girl is currently on psychiatric medication.
McCarron sat down with Balls.ie earlier today, and during the course of the interview, he addressed the issue above. The relevant transcript is below.
Gavin Cooney (GC): I want to discuss the issue of the 15-year-old girl you met on Tinder. Her father spoke to the Independent and he said that "to write the book so soon after the incident and to not express any remorse. What does that tell you? It feels like he wants to cash in on what he's done". How do you respond to that?
Cathal McCarron (CMc): It’s a sensitive issue. I feel sorry for the father, I can see his point completely, but at the time I was writing the book, this incident happened. It happened last October, and it was going on until earlier this summer.
For me...it happened. I feel sorry for the father. At the same time, I wish it never happened. I wasn’t going to talk about this, it was never going to be in the book other than he brought the spotlight to the guards and made a complaint.
From my own speaking of it, I am far from cashing in. If I had one thing I wouldn’t want in the book, that would be it. Unfortunately, that’s the way it is, and these things happen.
I’m probably a bit of the victim in there. The one thing I was looking forward to was my book launch in Dublin. My family and friends were going to be there, and everyone who I was going to celebrate [with] and [mark] the tough times that we’ve been through, and people were flying home from London. That’s been postponed now because he made complaints. Look, it’s a sensitive issue that is being dealt with legally, but I can understand where his anger is coming from, and I do feel sorry for him.
GC: With respect, you calling yourself a victim is an extraordinary turn of phrase.
CMc: I would think that I’m a victim of….I hold my hands up for going on a dating website, and I shouldn’t have been on it because I had a partner, and I take full responsibility for that. But at the same time,when someone was portraying themselves as someone they’re not...If I had known the girl’s age, or anything like that... When the father called me in the office, I was as shocked as anyone. I nearly fell off my chair.
When I say I’m the victim… I could have been very easily taken to court over that, and there have been incidents where lads have been. That’s how I mean I’m a victim. I went into this completely unknowing as to the fact she wasn’t the age she said she was.
The way I say I’m the victim is because it cost me a great night with my family and friends. Obviously, I was to appear on the Late Late Show and I didn’t, because of this.
It disturbed a lot of things we had planned. I was never going to talk about this, I wasn’t cashing in on this incident, I hold my hands up and say that it’s unfortunate that it happened.
GC: I do want to address this for another moment or two. Don’t you think you deciding not to talk about this in the book could be construed as you not thinking it’s that important?
CMc: It’s not that. He doesn’t realise the effects it’s had on my family and my partner, he is thinking of it from his family. He doesn’t realise the effect its had on my family. Going to the papers and them writing stories. This has an effect on me, my family, my partner, and her family. There are a lot of victims in this case and I think he isn’t looking very openly with his eyes and thinking straight, to be honest.
GC: Do you feel responsible for what she is going through?
CMc: Do I feel responsible for what she is going through?
CMc: [Pause]... No.
GC: Have you thought of how people will think of you after they’ve read the book?
CMc: Not really, no. that’s irrelevant. There could be a million people that read that book and 500,000 people will think that 'he’s an asshole'.
Put it like this: don’t judge me if you haven’t read the book. Read the book and then you can judge the story. If you read the book and you still think the same, well then I can’t change anybody. The only person I can change is myself.
It has been an incredibly hard time these past two years, getting back and trying to be a normal human being.
I don’t want people going around thinking ‘Oh Jesus, I feel sorry for that man’.
I don’t want pity.
I just want people to understand what I went through.
McCarron has been through a lot. Much of it is well known. The headline act was his involvement in a gay male pornographic movie in London, for which he earned £3,000 in cash. He gambled that money he earned within two days.
Gambling utterly consumed McCarron's life, and it caused him to steal thousands of pounds from his family - he was arrested for defrauding his mother via a credit card scam - and he also stole money locally, concocting a fake cancer charity for which he collected money. He later gave the money back.
This, he says, was all down to gambling. He stole to feed that gambling addiction, and he first found gambling as an escapism from a turbulent home life.
Lookit...I’d be very conscious of painting my Mum or Dad in a bad perspective, but as I share in the book, they probably fell out of love long before they split up. But I probably saw things I shouldn’t have seen as a child, and as a trainee counsellor now, I know that most things come from your childhood.
I think as that wee lad, watching these things and what was going on, there was a lot of anger in me that I couldn’t affect things. So I think it was suppressed in me, but during school I rebelled a bit because of what was going on at home.
I believe that’s where my gambling...I’m not saying that’s where it came from, I don’t want to blame my parents in any way because they didn’t know - but I believe that I turned to gambling as a form of escapism. It could have been anything else. But I happened to walk into a bookie one day, and it went downhill from there.
His addiction plunged him so deep, that he struggled to see any light. After the pornographic movie was leaked, he writes that he had "blackened his name so badly to was charred to a cinder".
So was the motivation behind the book to give his side of these stories? Partly. The main reason, however, was to help others.
Oisin McConville suggested to me in recovery that "if you get through this, think of the story you could have, you could write a book". I wasn’t thinking about it at that stage, all I wanted was a way out, a chink of light. Oisin planted a wee seed somewhere in the mind and I picked it up from there.
A lot of the stuff was out there, that was a big incentive to write a book. Maybe to show people where addiction can take you to, and to give people hope to the next person coming behind me.
That was really the reason behind the book, to show people how bad addiction is and maybe to give people hope.
McCarron says his story is an attempt to educate people about gambling addiction, which he describes as a sickness. The fact that he believes it is often misconstrued can be gleaned from the following line in the book, as McCarron imagines the perception of him that abounds in his hometown of Dromore.
They just saw me as a gambler and a thief, a selfish bastard who just needed to cop himself on but who wouldn't.
The use of "wouldn't" over "couldn't" is telling. It implies a level of control, something McCarron says he utterly lost while he was gambling.
McCarron has twice gone to rehab. He relapsed after the first, but nearly three years since checking out for a second time, he has not placed a bet, and is expecting a child with girlfriend Niamh.
While he knows his future is bright, he lives in fear of relapsing a second time, and regularly attends Gamblers' Anonymous meetings, while also training to be a counsellor. Every day, for McCarron, remains a struggle:
I am learning to try and think like a normal person does. That is my daily reality.
He prays every day, and during the course of our interview, he imagines his girlfriend's reaction when, during the early stages of their relationship, he kneeled down beside their bed to thank Mary for his not placing a bet that day.
Happiness, today, for McCarron, is peace of mind. A worry-free day is his perfect day. The book, he says, is less for him than it is to help others. So what is his advice to those who are struggling with addiction?
Lookit, I'm not a preacher. I'm not saying that if you have a gambling addiction, go and buy my book. But if they are in that place, try and see the world where gambling will bring you and lead you to, and try and get help.
If you think 'It'll be alright', it won't be. You need to do something about it. I wouldn't even want to give advice. I'd just suggest something.
Out of Control: How My Addiction Almost Killed Me And My Road To Redemption, by Cathal McCarron is published by Simon and Schuster and is available now.